A GROUP of animal rights activists have condemned Tom Duffy’s Circus for its “exploitative” use of animals.
Picketing the travelling troupe’s performances for three days last week in Omagh, the concerned locals said the use of sealions and horses is tantamount to abuse.
Speaking to the TyroneHerald during one of the protests, June McCombs said the aim of the picket is to make people think about the concept of animals in circuses.
“This is about making adults aware of what is happening,” she said. “In terms of tricks and performances from people in the circus, that sort of thing is amazing but using animals is different. It shouldn’t be happening.
“They have a sealion in there and a circus isn’t its natural habitat.
“This is an animal which is supposed to be living in the sea, as part of a family unit,” she continued.
“But here, it’s living in a paddling pool. It’s exploitative.
“This animal isn’t supposed to be doing tricks for people but that is what it has been trained to do. It’s a form of abuse.”
Holding posters and banners with slogans such as ‘Your Pleasure, Their Pain’ and ‘Let Them be Free,’ the protesters say pickets have been following the circus as it travels across the North.
Referring to the Facebook page, Northern Ireland Says No to Animal Cruelty, June revealed the Omagh series of pickets was organised through social media.
Another of the activists, Catherine McSorely explained, “If one person goes home and thinks about what they’e seen in the circus, that’s what we want to achieve. We want people to question this. Maybe if young people see us here they wil ask themselves if using the animals in this way is right.
“The thinking is changing but it’s a slow process.
“Animals aren’t supposed to be trained. They shouldn’t be made into clowns.”
Following an enquiry by the TyroneHerald, Tom Duffy’s Circus denied claims by animal rights supporters that its animals are poorly-treated.
“As we give the audience the opportunity to go ‘backstage’ at the end of the performance to see the animals where they eat, sleep and live, our audiences leave content in the knowledge that our animals are happy and well looked after,” David Duffy, the circus’s managing director and ringmaster said.
According to Mr Duffy too, an animals welfare officer made an unannounced visit within hours of arrival in Omagh. He said the officer was more than happy both with the conditions of the animals and their welfare.
He continued, “Here at Duffy’s we are totally dedicated to the welfare of our animals. There is a vast difference between animal welfare and animal rights.
“Animal rights activists often hold extreme views. They claim that animals have the right to roam free without any interaction with humans, they don’t want to see any animals in circuses or zoos, and some believe we shouldn’t have pets, guide dogs or eat meat.
“Every right-minded person believes in animal welfare, but for groups to claim that our animals suffer is misleading the public and has offended our dedicated team of specialist animal carers.”
He added, “It’s a myth invented by animal rights groups that we are secretive about our animals, and that we travel hundreds of miles between venues. Our tour is scheduled to avoid long journeys for the animals – the average journey is under 30 miles. Standards might be lower in foreign circuses, but those are not the standards we expect in Ireland.”